Cris Arreola looking to reshape his image

It happened at a big-box store, of all places.

Riverside’s Cris Arreola was days removed from his disappointing second career loss — this time to a man 33 pounds lighter, Poland’s Tomasz Adamek, on April 24 — when a tough-looking customer and his son approached and lamented that defeat. Arreola, who had aspired to become the world’s first heavyweight champion of Mexican ancestry, clearly had inspired fans with that quest.

“The guy started crying,” Arreola said. “I was thinking, ‘Man, this guy wants it more than I do.’ ”

That has been the problem for Arreola, 29, who attempts to rebuild that career Friday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario against Manny Quezada (29-5, 18 knockouts) of Wasco, Calif. ESPN will televise the card beginning at 6 p.m.

“I do blame myself for not being as prepared as I should have,” Arreola said.

For good measure, Arreola (28-2, 25 KOs) has also received post-Adamek scoldings and pep talks from the likes of his trainer, Henry Ramirez, as well as baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, who reminded the fighter that he lost two World Series before he finally won one.

To hear such responses, Arreola said, “That tells you what everyone in between thinks of me. I need to showcase what I know I can, and bring people back to me.”

One of those who left Arreola’s side is boxing’s most significant image-maker, HBO. Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports, announced this summer that his premium cable network was taking a break from televising heavyweight bouts — mostly because of the lack of U.S. interest in the champion Klitschko brothers, but also a big nod to 250-pound Arreola’s out-of-shape losses to Vitali Klitschko and Adamek.

Arreola weighed in Thursday at 256 pounds.

“There’s no question Cris Arreola is one of the most exciting heavyweights — he’ll throw leather with abandon — but as he knows, the only thing keeping him away from a championship is himself,” Greenburg said. “He needs to become a hungry heavyweight again, rather than a heavyweight who’s taking that term to the extreme. He’s been a guy fighting with one arm tied behind his back due to his seeming lack of training.”

Greenburg has seen what he called “a laundry list” of failed U.S. heavyweight prospects; Tony Tubbs, he cracked, “was a great athlete, but he ended up doing all his running from the chair to the refrigerator.”

“They don’t have to make weight, they get too much too soon,” Greenburg said. “They have so many people telling them how good they are, that they’re going to be a world champion. They start believing it and then they never get there.”

Greenburg said flatly that his network has a “wait-and-see attitude” about Arreola and will “measure his progress” starting Friday. HBO executives and others heard him talk of a new fitness regimen before Adamek, only to watch him fatigue in the late rounds and lose by decision. This time, Arreola vows he has missed only two days of his eight-week training camp, once to watch his beloved Dodgers play and again when a fire forced him out of his home.

“Henry [Ramirez] made fun of me, telling people I set the fire myself,” Arreola said. “It wasn’t me, man — promise.”